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Are property and assets split 50/50 in a Washington divorce?

Previous discussions regarding property division in a Washington State divorce have centered on the difference between community property and separate property. There are, however, other aspects of a divorce when it comes to finances. These include understanding whether the court splits the property and debts in half, knowing how spousal behavior factors in and how taxes and other financial issues will be viewed.

The court will strive to divide the assets and debts as evenly as possible. That does not automatically mean that there will be a 50/50 split. The reason is that there is a difference between equitable division and equal division.

There could be an unequal division of the property and debts, and there are many reasons why this could be the case. An example might be if the court decides that the spouse receiving less than 50 percent will be able to stage a quicker recovery than the other spouse.

Spousal misbehavior is another factor that is often considered by those getting a divorce as they wonder whether that can be taken into account. In general, that is not taken into consideration. One spouse will not receive more than the other because of bad behavior or if he or she was at fault in the marriage coming apart.

There is an exception to this. If the misbehavior was done to intentionally to destroy or waste the property, and it was successful, then the court might decide that the spouse who was victimized by that will receive more as a form of compensation.

With taxes, the way property is divided and support orders can have a major influence on how much is paid. This is true for both parties.

The way the marriage ended -- with a legal separation, annulment or dissolution -- will also affect the way taxes are filed. Since asset and debt divisions cannot be changed after the order, this must be examined seriously before deciding what tack to take in a divorce.

Whether it is a high asset divorce or one of more modest means, the spouses need to be aware of the various aspects of how property and assets are handled, as well as the issues that go into it. This is one of the biggest areas of dispute in a divorce. Therefore, it is important to discuss finances with a qualified legal professional when deciding to end a marriage.

Source: Courts.WA.gov, "Family Law Handbook -- Chapter 4, pages 8-9," accessed on Nov. 23, 2015

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